in his account, gives us the warnings of John, then the baptism of Christ,
followed by a genealogy. We will reverse this order as it may prove easier to
John answered and said to them all, "As for
me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I
am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy
Spirit and fire. "His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear
His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up
the chaff with unquenchable fire." So with many other exhortations he
preached the gospel to the people. But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded
by him because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and because of all the wicked
things which Herod had done, Herod also added this to them all: he locked John
up in prison. Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized,
and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon
Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, "You are
My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." When He began His ministry,
Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of
Joseph, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the
son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the
son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri, the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son
of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of
Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of
Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of
Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of
David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon,
the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ram, the
son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of
Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of
Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Shelah,
the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the
son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the
son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the
son of Adam, the son of God.
(Luke 3:16-38 NASB)
people have attempted, and failed, to read through the entire Bible in a year.
There are a number of stopping points; the most common one is the “begats.”
Unless you happen to be one of those people who enjoys researching your family
history, genealogies usually are rather boring. My father solemnly warned me
against such research; his uncle took up this hobby during the Great
Depression and wound up with thirty-one relatives living with him.
have their uses, however:
the people of the time, they would be like the family scrapbook – a way to
remember who was who. In some instances (such as those who could become
priests) it was necessary to prove descent from some particular ancestor.
other thing they provide is this: we are dealing with real people. Some
characters in the Old Testament have no genealogy; this always piques the
curiosity of the scholars. Why did Elijah have no parents? What about
Job? Real people have ancestors; they come from someplace.
give a sense of continuity which is lacking for us today. Most of us
would have difficulty naming all eight of our great-grandparents. Living
in a society in which a man would trace his descent from Adam provides a
great sense of belonging.
particular genealogy, however, has its little problems. It does not concur
with the one in Matthew until you get back to David, the king. Various
explanations have been brought forth for this, but it is not regarded as a
serious textual problem. Luke undoubtedly had a copy of Matthew’s Gospel;
failure to replicate his genealogy could hardly have been an accident. Of the
explanations proposed, two stand out.
first holds that there are two lineages – one to establish the legal claim
to the throne of David, and the other the physical descent.
other one is simpler: this is the genealogy not of Joseph but of Mary –
which establishes his physical descent through her. In the custom of the
time, her name would not be included.
is the correct explanation, this list gives rise to two of the favorite titles
of our Lord, the ones he used most commonly:
of man – descended from Adam, he is as human as we are.
of David – in accordance with the promises and prophecies given, Jesus is
the descendant of David who will rule forever on David’s throne.
having an ancestry help, or hinder?
is a practical side to genealogy for us. Permit me a minor digression.
father was born, quite literally, on the wrong side of the tracks. The
railroad was still the main form of long distance transportation, and in those
days engines were powered by coal. Coal dust and ashes coated the down wind
side of town. In his case, it was of more significance. Oil had been found
there, and some of the residents were quite wealthy – those who had
participated in the oil boom. It was a small town, and everyone knew just
which side of the tracks you came from. They expected certain behavior from
oppressive was this system that it literally moved our family. My father was a
career soldier; when he retired, he moved to California. I once asked him
why. His reply was, simply, “Here, no one cares who your father was.”
however, the opposite case. Suppose your parents were born on the right side;
what then? Johann Sebastian Bach had twenty children; only two or three
succeeded as composers. Were the others failures? Do you see how a worthy
ancestor puts an additional burden on you? This is true in the church as
well; what are your expectations of the preacher’s kids?
consider this: those who have died in the Lord still live in him, and will be
seen again at the last day. If you are the descendant of someone great in the
church, do you suppose they have an opinion of you? The cloud of witnesses may
be watching you.
instance of the present is the baptism of Jesus. It is more completely
detailed in the other Gospels; we can but pick out some nuggets here.
principle of example.
the very first the question arose, “John’s baptism is for repentance. Why
would Jesus, the sinless one, need that?” If you want the right answers, you
have to ask the right questions. Let’s try, “Why do we need to see our
you considered what might have happened if he hadn’t been? Many of us are
willing to become Christians – but if we had a choice about admitting that
we are sinners by being baptized, don’t you think that some would think it
beneath their royal dignity? But if Christ himself was baptized, what
earthly king could think it beneath him?
also, what a royal privilege it is for us! The king of kings went through
this ceremony; we are privileged to do likewise. It is our entrance into
the royal priesthood.
it is an example to us – of the humility and obedience of Christ. If he
is so willing, how could we refuse?
principle of identification
must remember that Christ is fully human. This is a very human thing to do.
So, if you will, he became like us, right down to baptism. And the purpose of
this? So that we might become like him in his resurrection glory. It is
written that he did this to fulfill all righteousness, and it is by baptism
that we take on that righteousness.
appearance of the Trinity
incident also gives us the most visible picture of the Trinity.
had been given the prophecy that he would know the Christ by the fact that
the Holy Spirit would descend on him like a dove.
Thus, this was planned so that all might know.
descent of the Spirit here tells us how the Spirit comes into our lives –
he descends from God, not arises from us. And he does so, gently.
the dove is a symbol of gentleness. But do recall: only the truly strong
can be gentle.
– the Judgment
has a clear grasp of who the Christ is – in terms of his mission and task. He
knows his own task, and therefore knows himself to be utterly unworthy for it.
Would you like a sign that you truly know Christ? That’s a good one.
is the last of the prophets of the Old Testament era – the ones under the
Law. He is the prophet of the coming of the Holy One.
knows his own unworthiness. Just like Ezekiel; just like Daniel; just
like all the others who saw the Living God.
in this passage we see the prophet foretelling what is to come. Baptism does
that; it is a symbol of the resurrection to come at the return of our Lord.
On that day, even one so great as John the Baptist will be less than those in
the kingdom. This is not for our own worthiness, but because of God’s grace.
it seems, are not particularly well qualified for diplomatic missions. John
did what the prophets of old did; he rebuked the ruling class for its sins.
He got the usual reward for it too.
and again – Paul and Festus spring to mind – we see the fascination that a
prophet has for an evil ruler. Herod was fascinated by the man. I suspect it
was his simplicity; here was the rare exception to the yes-men; here was one
who was single-minded. Herod could admire the virtue, if not emulate it.
as we know, Herod eventually beheaded John. We need to remember that “precious
in the sight of the Lord is the death of his godly ones.”
The honor of dying for the cause of God is indeed great.
also shared the style of preaching of the prophets. To understand his
agricultural metaphor, we might need to know just what a winnowing fork is.
Here’s a picture of one:
is one taken from an archeological site in Egypt, but it is contemporary with
Christ. The process of winnowing grain was done in three steps. First, you
drove the animals over the grain. That broke things down enough so that you
could separate out the kernels. You did that by taking the winnowing fork and
using it to rake out the straw – the wheat stalks. Once this was done, you
tossed the result into the air with a stiff breeze blowing – which blew the
to have the winnowing fork in hand meant that you were ready to do some serious
work in separating the good from the bad.
I was a jury foreman, I had to fill out the form needed to record the verdict.
It had only two options: guilty or not guilty. We looked for middle ground,
and found none. In God’s judgment there is no fence to sit on.
than that, we need to remember that he told us, many times, that he would come
when unexpected. He’s prepared to separate us.
real question is not what he’s ready to do. The real question, as always, is
simply this: are we ready for his return?